Thursday, April 30, 2015

Nairn's BIG group wins Generations Working Together award - Pictures

Brigitte Vallance told the Gurn of the latest accolade for the popular Beginners Internet Group:

"The BIG club in Nairn has won its second award, again for the intergenerational aspect and for its community connections. We won the award for best New Project. It is great that this BIG club, funded by RCOP and support by Nairn Academy has proved so popular in the Nairn community. Special thanks to Nairn Academy students who have done their community proud again!

The BIG club is continuing to be successful each Tuesday at the Community centre in the youth Cafe from 3.30-5.30. Both the Saltires students from Nairn Academy and Liz Main from Signpost.Inc. support the BIG club each week and the funding provide by RCOP Nairn is still being used to fund the FREE club. Tea and usually homemade cake made by Mairi Neilan provided. Lots of friendships made by all ages! and new skills acquired along the way."

Brigitte also told us that BIG are no longer part of Get IT Together which was a BT funded project. They are now part of the HIE Our Digital Zone and are funded by HIE and Citizens Online"

Dead animal in the river - town centre old cemetery area.

Occasionally the River Nairn delivers some poor creature that has had a misadventure further up river. If you are walking your dog(s) in the old
Cemetery/Joiners yard area you might want to keep your pet(s) out of the River and away from this unfortunate animal. Apparently it has been lying there for two days now. Nigel tells us that the Council Environmental Health department were informed early yesterday afternoon  and thus it shouldn't be there for much longer. 

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

New Gas pipes for Harbour Street and the High Street - work starts next week

It has come as a bit of a surprise to Fishertown residents to find out that major road works will commence in that area next week. The Gurn understands that work to replace old and potentially leaky gas pipes will commence in Harbour Street on Monday and the work will be completed in 30 metre sections. A resident in the area said on social media: "I got a letter last week.The work will start between 4th and 11th May and will take approx 16 weeks."

The image above shows exploratory holes being dug in Harbour Street earlier today in preparation for work starting on Monday. 

The new pipes are being stored on the site of the former gas works. 

General Election hustings at the Newton Hotel Nairn - pictures

A good turnout at the Newton earlier tonight as the seven candidates made their pitch to Nairn voters. The evening was organised by the Federation of Small Businesses and thus most of the questions had a business bearing. An interesting evening (for anyone not maxed out by the General Election yet) marked by the polite way the candidates all treated each other. More over the next day or two if time permits. In the meantime here's a few pictures below. You can see details of all the seven candidates on this Gurn flickr set if you click on the individual images.

General Election hustings tonight starts 7 p.m. (29th) Newton Hotel - Hear and question your candidates?

Anyone other Gurnites going?

Ward 19 Nairn Highland Council byelection - Indy support team hits the streets

A high profile delegation of five Independent Highland Councillors were in the town centre today supporting the two Independent candidates in the forthcoming Council byelection that takes place next week on Thursday May 7th - the same day as the General Election. 

Provost Laurie Fraser told the Gurn that  he wanted to encourage people to stand as Independent candidates at elections. This Gurn page here lists all the candidates and has links to pages containing the literature that we have received from them so far. 

 Paul McIvor and Laurie pause for a blether with Mike at the town barbers

Michael Green offers Indy literature to a voter parked on the High Street

Cllr Mike Finlayson with Mairi MacGregor

Also in town, the joint leader of the Highland Council opposition, Jaci Douglas.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Highland Rock Garden Club - 46th annual spring flower show - report from David Shaw

Thanks to David Shaw for this reprot on the Highland Rock Garden Club Show: 

"On Saturday the Highland Rock Garden Club were in the Community Centre to stage their 46th annual spring flower show and plants sale. It was an un-seasonally cold day for Nairn but stayed mostly dry with even the odd glimpse of sun!

This is a national show and attracted exhibitors to Nairn from Glasgow, and the Lothians as well as our local members from Highland and Moray who turned the Community Centre hall into a mass of colour. Of the many entries on the benches it was with great pleasure that we watched the judges award the Forrest Medal for the best plant in the whole show to Highland Club members Francis and Margaret Higgins from Berridale for a fantastic pan of Pleione orchids. This was a first for the Higgins and a first Forrest medal for members of the Highland Club; very well done to them.

Among our newer exhibiting members are Hamish and Sue Mackintosh from Dalcross who not only delighted the show secretaries with their car full of plants but also brought along some very nice exhibits. Under Hamish’s name was a magnificent pot of the snakes-head fritillary Fritillariameleagrisalba carefully lifted from the garden and looking excellent and a lovely miniature garden of small plants along with a named plan of the garden. Sue then took the credit for a pan of Primula vulgaris ‘Drumcliff’ in our Section V. Other local exhibits to inspire was a nicely grown pot of the New Zealand foliage plant Celmisiacoriacea by Olive Bryers, Balloch and a Trillium luteum plus a pan of Fritillariaacmopetala from John Owen, Fort Augustus.

In the past we have experienced a great rush of visitors to the show as soon as it opened whilst this year we noticed a steady trickle throughout the day. Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves looking at the show, buying plants and enjoying the bakes offered by the Nairn Amateur Athletics Association Club. Many thanks to all our exhibitors, helpers and visitors with our sympathy going to those who chose to stay until Sunday to drive south – I know one Edinburgh couple who took five hours to drive from Newtonmore to Edinburgh in the snow, ugh!"

Below some pictures from David and the SRGC. Individual images here.  A spreadsheet of the award winners also available here. 

More pictures and comments can be found on the SRGC Forum page here.

"One mans mission to raise awareness of dementia. Son, Carer, Campaigner" Tommy on tour - Nairn Community and Arts Centre May 29th

Letter to the Gurn from Mairi Magregor - an independent candidate in the Ward 19 Nairn Highland Council byelection

Mairi Macgregor
43 Manse Road
IV12 4RS

24th April 2015
Gurn Nurn

Dear Gurn

As a politically independent candidate standing in the local election on the 7th May I would like to share with you the main points that are important to me.

· It is important that Highland Council engages with the Community Councils to overcome the concerns that our community is simply taken for granted. The difficulty is that for a Community Council to do its job it will challenge the comfort zones of officials and political parties who may be following wider agendas that conflict with local needs. 

· I have deep concerns about the administration of the Nairn Common Good Fund. The Fund is a slumbering giant that has the potential to assist fund some of the initiatives that will improve not only Nairn, but the landward areas which look to Nairn as its centre of interest. 

· In November 2010 our new Police Station was opened at the cost of £1.6 m. Unfortunately before it even had its official opening it was named as one of the 10 stations in the legacy Northern Constabulary area that would have their opening hours limited. With the amalgamation of the eight Scottish Forces, Police Scotland has had to make more cuts to spending. It is therefore important for the folk of Nairn that there is consultation between Police Scotland and the local community ensuring a safe environment for all generations.

· Nairn Improvement Community Enterprise with over a thousand members has now been recognised by Highland Council as having a role to play in the Action Plan for the Nairn town centre I would fully support NICE with this project along with the Harbour, River and other projects they are delivering.

We need to bring the control of our town back to Nairn. So when you turn out to vote on the 7th May please vote for Mairi MacGregor. Putting Nairn and its people first.

Yours sincerely
Mairi MacGregor

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Nairn Youth Street Band music project fundraiser

The Penguin's Tuxedo band write on their fundraiser page. 

WHO ARE WE? We are a small but awesome (not for profit) youth group that gets together every week to practice samba/carnival music using Brazilian drums. We range from ages 11-22 and we are open to all young people in our community to join. We are called The Penguin's Tuxedo and we live in the small seaside town of Nairn in the Highlands of Scotland. 
WHAT DO WE NEED? We need to raise money to cover travel and accommodation to get ten of our members who are part of the bigger regional Youth Street Band (TNT) to the West End Festival in Glasgow in June. We don't have much money but we have already fund-raised enough for 2 people! our small town means fund raising is quite difficult.

MORE INFO... This is an exciting time for these guys as they have worked really hard to make this an amazing performance. You can see us performing on Facebook TNTyouthstreetband and also on our own facebook page Penguins Tuxedo. 

Strathspey 1 Nairn 2 Pictures from Donald Matheson, Mashy Young and Kenny MacLeod

Donald Matheson, individual images here. 

Mashy Young, individual images here. 

Kenny MacLeod, individual images here. 

Tories in town yesterday (Saturday 25th)

Edward Mountain, the Conservative party candidate, was on Nairn High Street yesterday with fellow party activists.

Friday, April 24, 2015

"Parents for Play" group formed to apply for funding for play equipment in Nairn

Stephen Fuller (SNP candidate for the Highland Council Nairn By-Election) is in the process of setting up a new group that will investigate and apply for funding to modernise and improve the play equipment in Nairn. The first 2 areas the group intend to try to improve are the Links and the Riverside.

Stephen said "you just have to look to Ardersier to see the tremendous facility a group of parents achieved by working together with councillors, play officers and the community to deliver one of the best playgrounds available in the area. I hope to do the same for Nairn, we have set up a core group and we would welcome more members and anyone who would like to help us in this aim"

"It is essential to have the community on board and any proposals we come up with will be shared with schools, play providers, parents and the youth forum. One member of the group is very keen to see play equipment installed that can accommodate children with disabilities and wheelchairs."

Liz MacDonald added "We used to have some of the best play facilities in Highland, but unfortunately these now require a significant input of cash to bring them up to modern standards. Myself and the other Nairn Councillors will, I'm sure, be delighted to work with Stephen's group to help find funding to update the Links and the Riverside and make them more exciting places for our local children and visitors to use"

Stephen added: "The group is new and will have to be set up formally to ensure we have the right body for applying for funding to achieve our objectives. As we develop and come up with ideas and suggestions we shall make sure to consult with the community, particularly the main stakeholders in this - our children."

Highland Council Byelection - Election Literature - fourth leaflet received - Ritchie Cunningham Scottish Liberal Democrats

Four out of five now received - just need the Labour mannie's leaflet for a full set. We did our best to make Ritchie's leaflet readable but it is a larger sized document - so if you have any problem reading it a full size version is available here. 

Thursday, April 23, 2015

This Saturday (April 25th) Fourth year for Scottish Rock Garden Club show in Nairn Community and Arts Centre

David Shaw tells the Gurn: "This will be the fourth year that we have run the show in this format at the Nairn CC and the people of Nairn really seem to like it as much as the organisers. Once again exhibitors will be travelling from all parts of Scotland with some of the best alpine show plants to be seen anywhere, but they still have a good challenge from local growers.

As well as plant sales from the local members table the nurseries will be Rumbling Bridge from Fife, Ardfearn from Munlochy and we are pleased to introduce Askival Alpines from Fort Augustus. Once again we are very pleased to welcome the Nairn Amature Athletics Club to provide refreshments."

This observer will testify that the Show is well worth crossing the A96 to see - images from the 2014 show here and 2013 here. 

Murd's Firhall Bridge question to the candidates

Murd Dunbar tells us: "Now that the hunting season is on for votes I would like to know who amongst the candidates would genuinely support a change from the enclosed photo to a ramp and let every one enjoy the riverside walk.

I ask those who would like my vote for a genuine answer not just a political answer just to obtain my vote then turn their back on it when elected.
It would also be nice to know what your readers think of a ramp for the disabled and others at the bridge.

As they can see it is impossible for anyone but those who can access the steps."

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Highland Council Byelection - Election Literature through - Third leaflet received: Mairi MacGregor

That's three out of five we have received now

Parent Council erect "No Entry" signs at Millbank Primary after parking advice ignored

Traffic safety issues at Millbank prompted the Parent Council to take action. A Highland Council spokesperson told the Gurn:

“The ‘no entry’ signs erected at Millbank Primary School were erected by the Parent Council (with approval from the school) during the holidays following a decision at their last Parent Council meeting. In common with many other schools the car park can be very busy and despite numerous reminders in newsletters that the car park is for staff and permit holders only, this advice was being ignored. Permits are issued to parents of pupils with additional support needs for access to the school."

The restriction will be removed on May 7th however when Millbank becomes a polling station for the day. The spokesperson went on to say:

“On the election day the car park will be available to voters as usual. Staff will park their cars in the infant playground as pupils are not in school on that day.”

Monday, April 20, 2015

Highland Council Byelection - Election Literature through the door - Second leaflet received Stephen Fuller SNP

That's two out of five we have now. Here's Stephen Fuller SNP candidate for the Ward 19 Nairn byelection on May 7th.

"Vlog: Cottage By The Sea In Nairn"

A young couple have been staying in Nairn and have made an outstanding video that we are sure many Gurnites will enjoy. They have a website here where you can follow their other travel adventures too. Well done Angela and Chris, your video is a stunner that will certainly help promote Nairn. 

Sight Action Raffle at Sainsbury's

A Sainsbury's spokesperson tells the Gurn:

"We here at Sainsbury’s, Nairn are delighted to inform you we are selling raffle tickets in our store at a £1 per ticket until the end of April. All proceeds will go to our charity partner “Sight Action”. Local businesses in Moray and Highland have been extremely generous in donating these prizes and we are extremely grateful to the following:

Boath House “Afternoon tea for two”

Highland Beauty Clinic Forres “£10 voucher”

Ashers “£10 voucher towards celebration cake”

Macleans Forres “Delux hamper of Macleans goodies”

The Newton Hotel “Afternoon tea for two”

Hopeman Holiday Cottage “13,14,15 Nov (Sleeps 4)”

Torvean Golf Club “Round of golf 4 people”

Pretty Woman Salon “Beauty gift voucher”

Abernethy Golf Club “Round of golf 4 people”

Jacobite Cruise “2 people”

Brodie Countryfare “Afternoon tea for two”

Eden Court Theatre “Gift voucher”

Leisure Club Family Membership “2 adults and 2 children”

Gatineau Cleansing Collection “Beauty products”

Glider Lesson with trained instructor “conditions apply”

Please come along and support this cause when you are next in store"

"Calling all creatives local to Nairn"

The WASPS studio viewings, more details on the page linked in the tweet above.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

August 1st, World Orienteering Championships in Nairn – thousands of visitors anticipated and road closures to facilitate the competition

At their recent meeting on the 8th of April in the URC hall, River Community Council heard from Colin Matheson, the professional officer for Scottish Orienteering and assistant director or the World Orienteering Championships, on the logistics for the major orienteering event that will take place in Nairn on August 1st. There will be a massive influx of thousands of visitors and competitors, road closures in the Fishertown area and all on the same day as the Farmers Show but Nairn will be in the international limelight for the day. 

Colin explained that the World Championships would run in tandem with the Scottish Six Days event. He told the meeting:

“The two events this year come under the umbrella of Highland 2015. Two years ago they were Moray 2013 and it is Highland this time. I’ve been having a number of meetings with Highland Council including councillors in Nairn, Liz Cowie and a transport sub-committee group , essentially to discuss the main opening race which is taking place on Saturday the 1st of August in Nairn. That will be preceded by the opening ceremony of the world orienteering championships. We’re still a little bit cautious about giving too much away about exact locations because until the last minute the details of where the course will go are have to be kept secret from the 50 or so nations that are competing. 

Essentially it is a mixed relay, sprint relay, which goes woman, man, man, woman and each runner will be running for approximately 15 minutes at high speed, primarily around the Links and Fishertown areas of Nairn. The exact routes and locations are, as I say, are a closely guarded secret and we don’t want information to leak outside. One of the...there’s various concerns that day including the fact that the Nairn Farmers’ Show happens on the same day, so there’s likely to be quite a lot of traffic coming through Nairn as they leave the show and a lot of orienteers who are coming to Nairn to spectate coming into Nairn. We will be parking on the Nairn Showfield so the majority of competitors and spectators will be coming in from the Inverness direction and turning right into the Showfield just as people are trying to come through Nairn. It has been recommended that we put up some advance warning notices to let people know that traffic will be particulary busy on that day in Nairn and we would also like if possible that people leaving the Farmers Showground and who are heading west to seek alternative routes via Cawdor but we can’t necessarily dictate that. [...]

Lots of, perhaps, concern for some people within this community council area is that we have applied for road closure notices between five o’ clock and half past nine on that Saturday evening. By road closures we really don’t want people to drive in and out the areas affected. The intention is that we will do the postcard drop throughout the affected areas – which essentially will say: “road closures, sorry for any inconvenience, we hope you take the opportunity to come and spectate at this once in a life time event”. And the plan is for a prize draw as well if you come along and present your card. So we want to try and keep people informed, to get people onside and not see it as a big negative – “oh God there’s a major event going on which is going to mess up my evening.” We will offer alternative parking arrangements for people who absolutely need to drive in and out of the affected areas on that evening and that will be up in the Farmers Showfield. 

So we hope that with our efforts of talking to different community councils people will have a sympathetic ear for what we are trying to do. This is one of the biggest sporting events inside of Scotland this year, perhaps the only thing upstaging it is the Open golf. I’m a golfer myself as well but we have major backing from Events Scotland. The event will be screened across; we’ve sold TV rights to Scandinavia, across Finland, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland. That’s a two million TV audience and discussions have just been concluded with BBC Alba who will be covering the sprint race in Nairn so there will be TV coverage. So there’s every opportunity to make Nairn stand out to a very wide audience. [...]

When I moved to Nairn a couple of years ago, when I first met Louise and we kind of bandied the idea about as to whether we could stage such a thing. The original plan was to host the event in Elgin. I managed to persuade the event advisers, the International Orienteering Foundation, that it was actually a better venue but it’s only a better venue if I’ve got the people of Nairn behind me in supporting me and asking them to leave their cars behind for a few hours on a Saturday evening. "

Colin then took questions. It emerged that as well as 50 international teams of 4 competing there would be approximately a thousand runners in a public sprint race which will take place immediately after the world championship sprint race. It is also anticipated that perhaps around 2,000-2,500 spectators may come to Nairn on the Saturday to watch the race. There will be provision for 700-800 car parking spaces in the Showfield and Nairn Academy will be used for overflow parking. Those arriving in Nairn will be directed from the carparks to the Links via the High Street. It promises to be quite a day.

New future for the Windsor Hotel? - planning application in to change to smaller guest house and 16 flats

An application is now live on the Highland Council website to change the Windsor Hotel - as the application sates: "Alter Hotel to form smaller Guest House and convert remainder of Hotel, and change use to 16 flats."

The Hotel is currently empty and looks in a very sorry state indeed. You can browse the application and associated plans here. 

Friday, April 17, 2015

Nairn features on BBC "Landward"

Thanks to Iain Maxwell who tells us that Nairn and local food is featured in this week's Landward. The first broadcast is past but the repeat is on BBC2 at 1.00pm Sunday 19 April.

Various views of Nairn High Street (looking good), Forbes meat - Little Kildrummie, MacLeod's Organics (Ardersier) and Connage Cheeses are all featured before the programme moves to Inverness to cook the locally sourced ingredients in Eastgate.  Also available on iplayer here, Nairn featuring at 6.44 into the program. 

"the old idea of making decisions for us still lingers" Big slide images showing previous changes and thoughts on the present day situation

Thanks to Iain Fairweather who sent us these pictures below that detail a previous change to the big slide in 2008. It passed without comment - perhaps everyone saw it as an improvement at the time?  Iain muses on what might have changed since then. He told the Gurn:

"The last time the slide was changed, I don't recall any public comment. This time Highland Council officers and councillors have drawn the fury of the community. So what has changed? The reality is that the Nairn community has found its voice and despite structures providing for consultation and partnership working, officials and councillors have yet to make that work in practice. They declare they do, but they obviously have different views of what that means. Scottish Government policy is to enable and empower the community but the old structures are struggling to embrace that. So a small issue that could have passed off without incident has once again placed Highland Council in the firing line. The old idea of making decisions for us still lingers and they have yet to embrace the new idea of making decisions with us. That's the future."

Present day scene

Another view from the present day
Larger pictures available if you click on the images on this Gurn Flickr page here. 

Morning skies on fire - picture Dave Shillabeer

Another beautiful sunny spring day in Nairn and it had a spectacular start too - captured by local award winning photographer Dave Shillabeer. He told the Gurn: 

"The skies a-blaze over Nairn just after 6 this morning. Taken from the farmers
field as the sun rose through the mist.

Larger image here and one more image here.

Constituency profiles - media showing more interest in Inverness, Nairn Badenoch and Strathspey seat

The interest in the high profile contest between Danny and Drew continues to draw attention from the national media. Available online today are constituency profiles from the Herald (here) and the National (here).

Highland and Islands FSB organising a General Elections hustings for local businesses - taking place in Nairn April 29th

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Highland Council Byelection - Election Literature through the door - first up is Independent candidate Paul McIvor

That's the first byelection leaflet that has appeared at Gurn HQ so far. Not thin on the ground by contrast is General Election literature. Anyway as and when byelection literature arrives we hope to copy it and put online.

Politics in the Playhouse - Tuesday 14th April - picture

Tuesday night in the Playhouse saw the open meeting where voters could ask questions of Drew Hendry the Westminster Parliamentary candidate for the SNP in this constituency. Also in attendance and taking questions from a large turnout were Fergus Ewing MSP and Stephen Fuller SNP candidate in the Nairn byelection for the vacant seat on Highland Council.  

Drew Hendry, Fergus Ewing and Stephen Fuller (left to right)

All candidates in both the Westminster and Nairn byelection contests are welcome to send in their images of campaign activities in Nairn and the Gurn will be happy to publish. 

Movie Icons Lingerie Fashion Show - 24th April - Newton Hotel

"Come along to our fabulous Movie Icons Fashion Show on the 24th of April. We will be showcasing the latest lingerie looks from around the world and raising money for Marie Curie. There will also be a raffle on the evening with brilliant prizes to be won! 

£10 tickets include entrance to the spectacular fashion show, goody bag and after party. 
£15 VIP tickets include entrance to fashion show, goody bag, after party and a glass of bubbly served to you at your table before the show starts. 

You can get tickets for the show in store, by emailing, calling 01667 454114 or from the Highland Fashion Week website:

Support a worthwhile cause and have a fantastic evening of glitz and glamour!"

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Gurn exclusive - Murd Dunbar and the General Election come face to face - pictures Murray MacRae

Thanks to Murray MacRae for this picture of an STV camera crew and SNP Westminster candidate Drew Hendry in Queenspark earlier today, as Drew chapped on Murd's door. The Gurn understands that issues concerning the Firhall Bridge may have been discussed.

A larger image here and a couple more of local photographer Murray MacRae's General Election observations here. 

Are you a General Election candidate? Let us know what you are up to in Nairn and/or send us pictures and the Gurn will be happy to publish. 

"Town Centre Toolkit" launched by Scottish Government - will it be useful for Nairn's community activists?

A Scottish Government press release states:

"A new online toolkit will give communities information and advice on how they can make their town centres more attractive, active and accessible.

The Town Centre Toolkit has been developed as one of the key actions from the Town Centre Action Plan, a plan which sets out measures to revitalise Scotland’s town centres.

Using case studies for inspiration, the toolkit is designed to give everyone the opportunity to be involved in making improvements to their local area and offers guidance on how to make best use of the assets already in place."  More from the Scottish Government here. 

Here in Nairn we certainly have gone round the course a few times with consultations and charretttes etc, when it comes to the town centre, with ongoing efforts still on the boil. Perhaps this new online facility might be of some use to those many serious students of town centre matters and, more importantly, to those actively engaged in trying to improve the town centre. 

At first glance the Town Centre Toolkit site looks very user friendly. Perhaps any gurnites with a bit of spare time over the next day or two might wish to have browse and share their thoughts on any potential help or inspiration it could provide to us here? 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

New minister for St Ninians and Auldearn

Details of the Revd Thomas M Bryson's appointment here. 

Day 1 of the Nairn traffic lights improvement works - picture

Info below from a BEAR press Release:

Improvements to traffic signals on the A96 through Nairn are planned to take place starting Tuesday 14th April.

Works will be carried out to further enhance the signalling system as part of Transport Scotland’s and BEAR Scotland’s overall programme of enhancing the efficiency of traffic signalling in the town.

Works will begin at Lochloy Road and then continue onto Seabank Road and Albert Street. 

The programme of improvements will take place between 9.30am and 3.30pm each day, starting Tuesday 14 April and are expected to be completed on Friday 17 April.

Throughout the works temporary traffic signals will be in place which will be removed at the end of each day.

Andy Thompson, BEAR Scotland’s North East Unit representative, said “These works will help improve the efficiency of the lights for pedestrian access as well as motorists.

“We have timed the works to take place during school holidays to minimise disruption, however some minor delays may be experienced.”

“We advise motorists to allow for extra time with their journey and check Traffic Scotland for travel information.”

Real-time journey planning information is available from Traffic Scotland at or twitter @trafficscotland.

Question and answer session tonight (Tues 14th) in the Playhouse with Drew Hendry and Fergus Ewing - start 7 p.m. all welcome

Any Gurnites with an interest in General Election affairs in this constituency might want to go along to the Playhouse tonight to put questions to the  SNP Westminster Parliamentary candidate Drew Hendry and the local MSP Fergus Ewing.

Are you a candidate for Westminster and holding an open meeting in Nairn? Let us know at and we will be delighted to publish details.

Several popular visitor attractions in Nairn are set to welcome Tourism Minister Fergus Ewing this week

A Visit Scotland press release states:

The Minister will meet people involved in key attractions in the coastal town on Wednesday 15 April, including Nairn Harbour/Marina, Nairn Museum, Inveran Lodge Guest House, Nairn Golf Club and Connage Highland Dairy.

The historic fishing port of Nairn dates back to the fourth century but didn’t become a popular holiday destination until the 1800s with ths arrival of the railway attracting visitors such as Charlie Chaplin to its wonderful beaches and gold courses.

Home to one of the only two colonies of dolphins in the UK, the town is often filled with marine enthusiasts and yachtsmen keen to glimpse them. The old fishing harbour has received a new lease of life as a berthing site for pleasure craft, many of which participate in racing events organised by the local sailing club.

Situated in Georgian Viewfield House, Nairn Museum offers visitors and locals alike a fascinating insight into the life and times of the town and surrounding area over the centuries. The wide range of permanent displays feature various aspects of Nairn's history and a huge collection of archive material is available for study. Nairn’s impressive fossil collection features as a current exhibition.

Mr Ewing will take lunch at Inveran Lodge Guest House, a 4* Gold VisitScotland Quality Assurance awardee, and has also attained a Taste Our Best award. Taste Our Best is a joint initiative between VisitScotland and the Scottish Government. Launched in 2013, the scheme is designed to recognise businesses that not only offer a quality food and drink experience, but include and promote Scottish produce on their menus, to give consumers choice. He will also be meeting with Visit Nairn, the local marketing association, to hear about their work and plans for the future.

The Minister will meet staff at Nairn Golf Club, a traditional Scottish golf links course which nestles on the shores of the Moray Firth. Founded in 1887, it has hosted a large number of important championships.

He will also visit Connage Highland Dairy, a traditional, family-owned, fully organic business, complete with shoop and café, situated on a family farm at Ardersier. It is owned by brothers Callum and Cameron and their wives Jill and Eileen. Callum and Jill manage the cheese side of the business using their years of experience and producing a fully traceable quality end product – multi award winning cheese. The organic dairy herd of 150 cows, mostly Holstein Friesian with Jersey crosses and Norwegian Reds, graze the luscious clover pastures around the dairy and along the shores of the Moray Firth.

Scottish Tourism Minister Fergus Ewing said:

“Our tourism industry is vital to the Scottish economy and one of our biggest employers especially in rural areas. Nairn is known as a tourist destination for many reasons including its award winning beaches and beautiful golf courses. I welcome this opportunity to discuss how we work together to grow the tourism sector, particularly during the quieter seasons.

“Tourism plays a vital role in promoting the Scottish brand and it is important that we continue to build on our success in this area. The Year of Homecoming in 2014 has taken Scotland’s profile to great heights and with 2015 being the Year of Food and Drink, we are determined to build on this success for the future. There is the opportunity for Nairn to play a key role in this with its fine range of local food and distilleries nearby.”

Scott Armstrong, VisitScotland Regional Partnerships Director, said:

“Nairn is often used as a great base for exploring the Highlands and has a wonderful tourism offering, including an award-winning sandy beach and promenade, championship golf courses, popular restaurants and shops.

“During the summer months, Nairn hosts an extensive programme of family entertainment and major events, including the Nairn Agricultural Show and the Nairn Highland Games, both of which are a real draw for visitors.

“Tourism is more than a holiday experience – it creates jobs, sustains communities and provides a shop window for business activity. Without tourism, many remote communities would not be sustainable and business sectors like drinks, retail or construction would be severely impacted.”

Nairn Rotray help victims of Cyclone Pam

"Not long ago Cyclone Pam hit the 80 islands in the Pacific archipelago of Vanuatu. An estimated 90% of buildings were completely destroyed or damaged, while infrastructure and communications were crippled as a result of the tropical storm. Trees were uprooted, schools and homes wrecked, and people had to take refuge wherever they could.Vanuatu is the other side of the world, and a long way from the UK. The governments and armed forces of Australia and New Zealand – the nearest major countries – have led the relief and recovery efforts. Aid agencies, too, have responded: and among the first into action was Rotary’s “Shelterbox” operation."  More on this Nairn Rotary Facebook page. 

Support for Cawdor to return to Ward 19 Nairnshire

The Boundary commission’s proposals to put Ardersier in with Nairn as part of a Highland Council ward were unanimously rejected by Ardersier Community Council recently and at the regular meeting of Cawdor Community Council last night in the village’s community centre there was similar rejection of that idea as calls were made for Cawdor to be returned to Nairn. 

Cllr Michael Green (venturing over the ward boundary line for the night) told the meeting:
“Myself and my two colleagues, we have actually put in a response to the Chief Executive saying that Cawdor should be included and Ardersier should be excluded. [...] And when Ardersier and ward 18 put in their response, the combined responses, well I would like to think in this age of community empowerment that would carry enhanced weight for the people that don’t want to stay or come back into where they should have been and never should have been excluded from. So we are very much in favour of having Cawdor 100% back with us. ”

Clrr Roddy Balfour backed Cawdor returning to Nairnshire, he said: “The easy answer is to put Cawdor back to Nairn and leave Ardersier where it is connected to Inverness and let everyone be happy except the bureaucrats. 

LibDem Councillor Kate Stephen told the meeting:
“From my point of view it would be sad to lose you. I wouldn’t like to be saying I’d prefer to have Ardersier or I’d prefer to have Cawdor so it’s not personal at all and I think that it would be sad. I would actually miss if you guys were no longer in my patch. However I do think that there is a huge amount of boundaries at the moment that we have to work to and it gets very confusing and the more alignment there is the better and for me one of the biggest, most sensible boundaries or alignments is associated schools because they are one of the most stable things. A lot of other things move, whether it is NHS or different districts, the boundaries move but associated school groups tend to be quite stable partly because of geography and that is where the catchment area for children is. For me it is more sensible if everything else can align to associated school group boundaries there’s more sense in that.”

The meeting then heard more about the local associated school group from the Cawdor Primary head teacher which included information about how a youth development officer's initiative was not made available in Cawdor but ran in the other schools in the Nairnshire group because of boundary anomalies.

Chair of Cawdor CC, Tim Smith, also gave his personal view which supported Cawdor being part of the Nairn area.

Keith 1 Nairn 3 more pictures

Images here from Kenny Macleod and here from Mashy Young.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Another "Big Slide" front page splash for the Nairnshire Telegraph

Interesting stuff in this week's Leopold Street Thunderer as the contents of a recent response from Highland Council to Suburban CCs series of Big Slide Freedom of Information questions hits the public domain. 

Meanwhile over on the ever popular Nairn when you were a bairn facebook page Big Slide outrage is a fresh as ever as one of the members of the group reveals piece by piece answers to a series of his own Big Slide FOI requests. Still waiting here at Gurn HQ for responses too. The Big Slide  -  the issue that will come to define 2015 in Nairn?

Warning of delays as work starts on Nairn traffic light improvements

"The improvements which will be carried out as part of Transport Scotland’s and BEAR Scotland’s programme on the A96 will begin at Lochloy Road and then continue onto Seabank Road and Albert Street.

They will take place between 9.30am and 3.30pm each day, starting on Tuesday and are expected to finish on Friday."  More on the Highland News site here. 

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Nairn River Enterprise going forward despite bad news on the grass cutting front

This article best read in conjunction with this previous Gurn article "River CCs plans to take on Nairn’s grass cutting and grounds maintenance dealt a mortal blow?"

After River CC’s Simon Noble delivered the bad news about the grass cutting project at the organisation's regular meeting in the URC last Tuesday night  Murd Dunbar made a comment:

“Is this not outside what the Community Council was set up to do. To me it looks as if you want to set up a business, set up a firm. A community council is to help locals not set up a business cutting cemeteries, cutting playing fields and all the rest...”

Simon Noble interjected: “We’ve said that all the way along Murd so I agree with you. You haven’t got an argument there because that is what we said all along.”

Murd repeated: “I think it is outside what the Community Council was set up to do.”

Simon continued his explanation: “Nairn River Enterprise was never intended to be only about grass-cutting which is what you are describing as a business."

Debate then returned to the procurement threshold stumbling block for River CCs Community Challenge Fund bid . A short while later Brian Stewart said:

“Given that the seriousness of that constraint effectively rules out the Challenge Fund as a framework within which to develop your enterprise plans, where does that leave the enterprise project in terms of a business plan? Is it a question of redefining objectives, doing things other than grass cutting or is it a question of looking for other sources of funding for doing the things you were hoping the challenge fund would fund?”

Simon Noble replied: “The connection is only  insofar as the Community Challenge Fund was only one of three identified projects that the enterprise would take forward. The Enterprise is to be established with the express purpose of benefiting the community of Nairn River Community Council and with the purpose of developing and regenerating the local area in a way which provides opportunities for employment. I'm paraphrasing he objectives which we have actually published on a number of occasions. So the enterprise is about community development and the Community Challenge Fund project was seen as being a particularly attractive way of providing some backbone for the long term further development of the enterprise but not the be all and end all of the enterprise [...] We started with three projects, one was the Community Challenge Fund, one was riverside regeneration and one was recycling. So this is one of those that looks like it is out of the way but that in some ways that helps us to get a bit more focussed on how we go forward from there.”

A little later Brian Stewart spoke again: “So whether it is a public authority that is delivering something or a private company that is delivering something it is actually quite difficult and complicated. There are lots of rules and conditions and things that have to be complied with and that has set me thinking because I am also a community councillor and it picks up on what Murd said right at the beginning – which is: are we comfortable? Are any of us in any of the community councils comfortable with the notion that we should be acting as sponsors or godfathers or patrons, or god help us, as actual managers of delivering public services.

It was the kind of philosophical point which came up right at the beginning. Is it the right thing for community councillors to do? Is it a good thing for community councils to do? Is it going to work or are we actually (I say we – whichever community council you live in), is going down this road of providing and developing and delivering services as an alternative to the local authority, or as an alternative to a commercial contractor, is this wise, sensible right and desirable? 

I’m going to be agnostic on that but I sense from what some other people have said in this room tonight that while not everybody is comfortable with the notion that a community council should be embarking on what Simon has already shown us is difficult, complicated, time-consuming and not a free exercise. It’s nice when some of us like Simon and others put in our time and effort voluntarily but as we have already discovered with the River Enterprise there’s been costs involved, money has been spent. People have had to be paid for their services. So it is not as if this is an academic exercise or an exercise that is somehow theoretical. I just pose the question, is this sort of thing that makes sense as a road that is right to go down?"

Simon returned to the debate. “Well I know, but I think your basic premise is mistaken because Nairn River Community Council is not embarking upon providing a community service [...] The objective is to establish a separate enterprise which delivers on the objectives. Nairn River Community Council’s role in this is in setting a form of strategy to this and establishing, endeavouring to establish, a framework under which community development can take place.”

The debate then moved into the territory of “where the buck stops” as Brian asked further questions. Simon replied that that was something you establish when you set up the enterprise. 

More to come in the near future perhaps as the outline framework for “Nairn River Enterprise” arrives at the next meeting of River Community Council?

Keith 1 Nairn 3 - Pictures Donald Matheson

Individual images here.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

River CCs plans to take on Nairn’s grass cutting and grounds maintenance dealt a mortal blow?

Simon Noble gave an update on River Community Council’s proposed social enterprise organisation “River Enterprise” at the organisations meeting on Wednesday night in the URC hall. He had news that basically sounded the death knell for River CCs plans to take over the town’s grass cutting and grounds maintenance from Highland Council. He said in relation to the entire project:

“We are anticipating being in a position to report on the recommended form for the social enterprise at our next meeting together with an outline business plan which will set out how we propose to implement the enterprise and what work in terms of project work we will actually start with.”

He then went on to talk about River CCs involvement in using the Community Challenge Fund to try and take on the town’s grass cutting and other grounds maintenance activities. On that he said:

“The significance of it is much wider than Nairn River Community Council and Nairn River Enterprise. We had, finally, a statement from a Highland Council officer last week where he gave us for the first time chapter and verse on what the procurement rules are and what the threshold for procurement is in relation to any work currently undertaken by Highland Council. The significance of the threshold is that it has a direct implication for any proposed Community Challenge Fund project – that is right across the whole Highlands and people may or may not be aware; I think that there has been maybe one, possibly two, successful applications to the community challenge fund in the two years since it was launched. 

The Community Challenge Fund is intended to provide opportunities to enable local communities to take on work in their communities for the benefit of their communities and typically what Highland Council was proposing was to transfer work that they currently undertake into the hands of local community groups. What we now understand is, and this is only from last week, is that it is impossible for community groups to achieve that transfer without it going to open tender, in other words going into public competing tenders for that work. The threshold for Highland Council is £12,500 for a year’s worth of service. Whilst that might enable local communities to take on certain small pieces of work, it certainly doesn’t facilitate serious transfer of services – of any kind of service in my judgement. I was absolutely staggered that it has taken two years for this to be spelt out – to us, never mind anybody else and that we have had consultations and discussions with representatives of Highland Council over, certainly as far as Nairn is concerned, approaching 18 months, and whilst they have made references to anxieties and concerns that procurement rules might have a bearing and whilst they have also told us at one point they might not have a bearing they are now telling us quite clearly that we would not be able to accept a direct transfer of services where they were valued at more than £12,500 for a year’s worth of service and the indications that we have, and we only have ballpark indications, we’ve got no breakdown from Highland Council so far. The indications are that the value of the service that we have expressed an interest in were substantially higher than that.”

[...]We have asked some follow up questions but the indications from this are, to me, first off that the Community Challenge Fund is not a serious policy and cannot be, because it cannot be implemented in any kind of serious way. So Highland Council may have set out with the intention of transferring of enabling and empowering communities in transferring services to them but they simply cannot, on the basis of what they are told, achieve that and they must have know this for some time at some place within the Highland Council. That would be my surmise on the basis of what we have now learnt about the procurement threshold. As far as Nairn River Enterprise is concerned, unless they can come back to us and describe pockets and packages of work that might fall below the threshold and we wait to hear that, I would anticipate that the community challenge fund element will cease to be the heart of our project plan.”

Gurn Comment

And so what looks like the end for something  that started out as an exciting and popular community-led initiative that looked like it might bring back at least the local grass cutting into community control. This observer believed at the time that with the enthusiastic support River CC initially got from our Highland Councillours that that organisation would find a mechanism to allow this idea to succeed. Two years later and it turns that everyone, community councillors, Highland Councillors and officials, a consultant employed by River CC, have all been wasting their time. It is sad and appalling that so much effort has gone into something that looks like it will achieve nothing. The Community Council’s social enterprise off shot “River Enterprise” could have a future beyond this though although there were strong opinions about this from the floor of the meeting on Wednesday night – more on this later this weekend if time permits.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Radioactive contamination in the former Kingsteps Quarry?

Many gurnites might have heard what the local authority refers to as "anecdotal evidence" that aircraft parts were dumped in the former Kingsteps Quarry after the end of World War 2. Now it seems Highland Council are taking the folklore tales seriously. Here's what they have to say in a press release: 

"The Highland Council is carrying out ground investigations and radiological surveys, at the former Kingsteps Quarry in Nairn. Investigations will initially take place on Saturday 18 and Sunday 19 April. The works are being carried out to ensure the site can be used safely by the public as an amenity area in the long term.

Surveys will be undertaken as a precautionary measure due to anecdotal evidence of possible buried World War 2 military aircraft at the site and to assess any impact from historical fly-tipping in the area. If present, aircraft parts disposed of may have contained very small amounts of radioactive contamination in the form of luminised paint which was used on dials on wartime planes.

Consultants have been commissioned by the Council to undertake a radiological survey of the site. This will be done using monitoring equipment that is walked over the ground surface. A general evaluation of other possible pollution sources in the quarry will also be undertaken.

The 4.2 hectare site at Kingsteps Quarry is owned by the Council and was acquired in 2001 (at no cost) from the neighbouring Lochloy Housing developer.

Council staff in the Development & Infrastructure Service and Community Services have been liaising with SEPA, and local Ward Members.

The site was formerly a sand and gravel quarry and then used as an unregulated local dump. There are informal paths on the site used by locals for dog walking and countryside amenity.

Radiological survey staff will be on site for 2 days. During the survey period, public access will be maintained at all times.

William Gilfillan, Highland Council’s Director of Community Services said: “The surveys are a precautionary measure. There have been word-of mouth accounts of planes being deposited in the quarry but no documentation has been found to support this. The surveys will also check that any potential contamination from historical activities in the area does not pose an unacceptable risk to human health. Residents have requested that more could be done to encourage access in this area and carrying out these surveys will contribute to an understanding of the site that will inform future decision-making.”

"The survey results will be analysed - and if required - appropriate actions will be taken to remediate the area for continued public access. If required, the Council will apply to the Scottish Government for Vacant and Derelict Land Funding to improve the site.”

Mr Gilfillan added: “The Council has prepared an information bulletin on the survey for anyone wanting to find out more and this information is available on the council’ website. Anyone requiring further information should phone the Council’s Service Centre on 01349 886606.”

Kingsteps Quarry – Information bulletin

1) What are the surveys looking for?
The radiological survey will detect particles of radioactive material (specifically Ra-226) up to a depth of 10cm, and was designed with advice from the SEPA Radioactive Substances Unit. Ra-226 is associated with aircraft dials, and there is anecdotal suggestion that aircraft may have been buried in the former Quarry following WWII.
The general site survey is designed to assess the materials and depth of soil currently onsite. This will inform the Council on areas where tipping may have occurred and provide useful information towards a remediation design if necessary.

2) Why is the Council doing this survey now and who pays?
The Scottish Government has provided the Local Authority with Vacant & Derelict Land funding, and the inclusion of greenspace improvement criteria has allowed the Council to program this survey.

3) When will the results of the survey be available?
The radiological survey will take a few weeks to complete. We should be able to provide you with an update by the end of May 2015.
Ground Investigation/general site survey could take 3 – 6 months when further updates will be made available.

4) Who do I contact if I have any queries regarding the survey or information about historical military dumping in the area?
Please contact Council’s Service Council’s Service Centre on 01349 886606 who will direct your query to the most appropriate person.

5) What risk is there to my family?
The Highland Council does not know of any risk to the quarry users. This inspection is precautionary and based on the desk based historical review inclusive of the former quarry area only.

6) There is housing built adjacent to the quarry and further development underway, could these areas be contaminated?
All housing in the area at present is located outside the survey area, which is the former quarry only. Any new housing given Planning Consent from 2002 will have been required to demonstrate it was suitable for use. 

7) What happens if you find contamination in the Quarry?
The results of the soil and groundwater analysis will be used to assess whether there are any unacceptable risks to health and / or the wider environment. Once this process is completed, if necessary, a remediation strategy will be developed and executed in line with the funding available."